Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Playing with Salt

Sal de Vida Roasted Habanero Salt
Lately I have been absolutely loving fresh corn on the cob with habanero infused salt! Imagine. Sweet buttered corn with a salt that has some bite to it!

Yes, I have become addicted to a salt. It's a habanero infused salt from Sal de Vida Gourmet. How did I come upon it? Well you may recall that in late July I went to the preview of the San Francisco Street Food Festival. It was there that I met and talked to Adriana.  She had participated in La Cocina's program that assists people to get their food businesses started. Her business is specialty salts.

Many of you probably don't know that there is actually a bunch of salt flats in the Delta.  That's right. Here in the Bay area we have old style, seawater evaporating, salt flats. I first found out about them watching Huell Howser from PBS' California Gold go out and get a tour. Adriana says that the salt she uses comes from the south bay and that these salt flats go back to the Indians. She buys the salt from a distributor who happens to grind it to just the right consistency for Adriana's infused salts.


Adriana has seven salts that are carried year round and then has one or two seasonal salts. The year round salts are: roasted habanero, balsamic vinegar, orange, herbs de provence, cabernet, rosemary lavender, and cilantro.

I can't wait to try the other flavors. The salts are sold in 3.5 ounce jars for $14 at the Ferry Terminal in San Francisco. They can be found in the La Cocina shop. You can also buy them online from her site.  I'll be down there at the end of the month and will definitely be scooping up a jar of the habanero. This weekend I put some on my popcorn. So good!


I've also been playing around with cooking on Himalayan salt blocks. Last winter I had my first bit of salt education when I visited The Meadow. At that time I could only afford a few salts and had to wait to buy a salt block. Last month, while at the International Food Bloggers Conference in Portland, I snuck away to go to The Meadow. How lucky was I that they were having a sale of blocks for 50% off!  These were not the best, faultless blocks, but ones with some slight defects. It didn't matter to me, as I will be using them personally and not for being showy.

I got a 9x9" block for $21 and it weighs a lot! Think of it as a big brick. It can be used hot, cold, or room temperature. If you freeze it, you can then serve ice cream, sorbets, or other frozen treats. At room temperature, serve cheeses, fruits, and cold cuts on them. Or you can heat them up on a grill or stove top until they are super hot (handle carefully, of course) and then use them at the table to cook thin cuts of meats or seafood.

I came home, read the instructions, and set about my first cooking experiment with the block. The instructions say that the first few times are the most sensitive for the block. Since  mine had a flaw, I wanted to handle it as carefully as possible. I placed it on top of one of my gas range burners and turned it onto low. You need to gradually heat the block up with 10 minutes at low and then incrementally increasing the heat and waiting a few minutes at each level. Finally the block is super hot for grilling.

So far I have made a thin cut steak, which was very salty, and then lamb chops, which were hardly salty. I think the porousness and the thickness of the items make a difference. I want to do some seafood next and then try the opposite - freezing it for ice cream.

Certainly for any salt lovers out there, give Sal de Vida a try and if you really want to play around, consider a salt block.




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